Friday, November 6, 2015

Tai Chi Tip: Beginner Focus

A common question many people ask when they are first learning Tai Chi is, "what should I be focusing on when I go through the form?"  There are many different things that one can potentially focus on while preforming any Tai Chi movement, or set of movements, and beginners have a tendency to get excited about their training and read as much as they can about it from many different sources.  That is understandable because Tai Chi is very exciting, and it is always good to gather information from multiple sources.  However, this practice often leads beginners to more confusion than clarity.  They may read one source that says they should focus on their breathing, then read another source that says they should focus on moving from their Dan Tian, while yet another source says to focus on connecting all of the body in each movement.

Which of these ideas is the correct one?  Should all of this advice be followed at once and, if so, how can anyone possibly focus on that many things at once and keep it all straight?  The truth is, each of these example sources is correct, and all of these things (and more) should be done during practice, but they should be built on top of each other, rather than all thrown in together at the same time.

When a beginner asks me what they should be focusing on during practice, I tell them to focus on structure and sequence first.  In other words, one should first make sure that the mechanics of the movement are correct (knee alignment, torso alignment, hand position, etc.), then they should make sure that they are doing these movements in the right order for the Tai Chi form they are learning.  Once those things have become second nature, then the student can pick one more thing to focus on, say, keeping the movements smooth and continuous, and after that becomes second nature, they can move on to one more thing.

If you are a beginner, don't worry so much about all the things you can potentially be focusing on during your practice.  Simplify.  Focus on the mechanics of the moves first.  It will give you one specific thing to pay attention to and remove the overwhelming feeling of needing to focus on fifty things at once.  When you no longer have to focus on that thing, pick a new thing to focus on.  Eventually, you will be doing and focusing on all of the things you have read about and it will feel peaceful and rejuvenating, rather than stressful and daunting.

To Your Health,
Shifu Andrew Plitt

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